The first time they met François, my parents insisted on taking him to the nicest Persian restaurant in Los Angeles. My father ordered the appetizer sampler, which François ate with gusto while questioning my mother about the ingredients:
“Is this the spice sumac?”
“Are these the thin-skinned Persian cucumbers?”
“Is the feta made with sheep’s milk?”
Once the appetizers were finished, François selected the most copious dish on the menu, the sultani, a combination of lamb, beef, and chicken kebob on an enormous mound of rice. His order arrived, looking as if someone had just grilled an entire petting zoo. François ate and ate and ate. My father asked me, in Persian, whether he always ate like this. My mother said, in Persian, that she hoped he wasn’t going to get sick. Meanwhile, François kept eating.
By the time he was done, there was not a grain of rice left on his large oval plate. My mother told him how lucky he was that he could eat enough food for three people and not be fat. François was of normal weight – although he did outweigh me, which fulfilled one of my two requirements for dating a guy. The other requirement was a total lack of interest in watching sports on television. François fulfilled that one, too.
Unbelievably, he ordered dessert, exclaiming that he couldn’t possibly imagine skipping the rose water and pistachio ice cream. By then, I was just hoping that if he did throw up, it wouldn’t happen in my father’s car.
Once we arrived at my house, I asked François why he had eaten so much. “I know that Middle Easterners love to feed people and I wanted to make a good impression on your parents,” he said. “But now I need to go lie down”
The story above is an extract from the book Funny in Farsi published with permission from Firoozeh Dumas. Firoozeh is the author of Funny in Farsi, an excellent and funny book of tales about growing up Iranian in America, and her second book, Laughing without an accent, has just been released.
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